“Innovation” is a word that now seems to appear as part of every policy conversation, discussion, and strategy paper. Supporting the development of new technologies is increasingly held up as a solution to a host of challenges that Europe faces, – from climate change, to Covid recovery, to economic growth.
But innovation is not only about supporting the brightest and best private sector ideas and helping them grow into world-leading technologies and products. It is also about creating the structures and mindset that provide the foundations on which new public sector solutions can be built.
Nowhere is this more critical than within the European Commission itself. New ways of working are needed to keep pace with citizen expectations, to improve efficiency and to support transparency. In a post-Covid economy, with ongoing instability, this is essential if agencies are to move with agility to deliver services in a truly modern way that meets the needs of Europeans.
Developing new ways of working will require enhancing the culture of innovation across the Commission and its agencies. That innovation culture can be truly transformative when it comes to service delivery, but it also demands new ways of working, and a broader understanding of where innovation begins.
Dr Carolin Möller, Senior Manager – Public Sector Digital Transformation, from the leading CRM provider Salesforce, is one of those who believes that discussions about innovation should focus on establishing an effective infrastructure, rather than on one-off ideas.
“If you say ‘innovation’ to most people, they imagine a lone scientist working in isolation on a breakthrough idea,” she explains. “The reality though is that innovation is, by its very nature, collaborative and incremental. It depends not just on single big ideas but on having the structures and systems in place that can unleash the creativity of whole staff teams. Encouraging a culture of innovation across the European Commission is as much about how people work together as it is about new products and services.”
This message is now widely understood across the private sector. Large and small companies around the world, from NASA to Coca-Cola, are increasingly developing new collaborative approaches to innovation, connecting different departments and functions to think differently about how they work.
But, achieving that level of collaboration requires both a culture that connects people and, critically, the infrastructure and systems that can provide common platforms.
One of the central pillars that can help achieve that connectivity is a platform approach. This provides common systems and structures that enable different agencies, departments, and territories to share information and data in real-time. This supports a shared starting point for developing new services for customers and citizens.
This approach is increasingly being adopted by Commission agencies and individual member states to help create an environment where innovation is more likely to happen.
Indeed, the benefits of the approach were seen during the recent pandemic where platform-based approaches were pivotal in supporting a shift to digital delivery during lockdown.
One organisation that reaped the rewards of investing in platform technology was Business France, the agency charged with increasing inward investment and supporting French businesses. Business France has 74 offices in 55 countries, supporting 12,000 companies a year. That meant finding ways to share information and collaborate effectively was critical when the pandemic hit.
Business France believes that the platform-based CRM system that they had recently put in place allowed them to innovate with agility and respond to the changing needs of French businesses.
Dr Möller from Salesforce believes that connecting agencies and teams from different territories is essential if citizens and customers are to have the seamless experience they increasingly expect.
“It is no longer good enough to refer an enquiry to a different department, or a different agency,” she tells us. “Citizens and businesses expect there to be no wrong door when it comes to accessing public services. This demands shared platforms that make it safe and easy to share data in real-time.”
Not only does the platform approach benefit citizens but as can be seen with Business France, it also creates the perfect breeding ground for developing new and innovative approaches that can be rapidly deployed. This will help institutions to move with agility to respond to a world where change feels to be more rapid than ever.
As the European Commission pursues an innovation-led economic recovery following Covid, the innovation debate must now be widened beyond trying to identify the next game-changing product. In addition, it should encourage the adoption of a platform-based digital infrastructure that can benefit citizens, support collaboration, improve accountability, and lead to the emergence of the new ideas that will become part of all of our futures
To find out more visit: www.salesforce.com/eu/publicsector